16th CSE Media Fellowship: Off-grid Renewable Energy

Power beyond the grid: Is renewable doable?

July 5, 2013 - September 5, 2013

This fellowship is supported by Misereor

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) 2011 report on renewable energy sources and climate change mitigation, 85 per cent of current primary energy driving global economies comes from the combustion of fossil fuels.

These fuels account for 56.6 per cent of all anthropogenic GHG emissions in the world. In 2007, energy generation accounted for 58 per cent of India's net GHG emissions. Use of renewable energy sources — such as sun and wind – could, thus, play a role in mitigating climate change and its impacts.

About 75 million of India's 226 million households (400 million people) have no access to power, says the Union ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE). In rural areas, the electrification rate hovers at 47.5 per cent -  either the grid does not reach these places, or even if it reaches, it fails to provide end - point connectivity. In such a scenario, decentralised off-the-grid renewable power projects could be a way out.

Even in urban India, it is estimated that by 2017, soaring power rates would mean off-grid solar, particularly roof-top generation units, could become cheaper than conventional grid electricity.

Centre for Science and Environment’s (CSE) Media Fellowship Programme invited journalists from India writing/reporting in any language to apply for its 16th Media Fellowships to address, analyse and report on the issue of off-grid renewable energy.

4 jury members shortlisted 9 fellows from 43 complete applications from across the nation.

Amitava Das
Contributing reporter

Location: Agartala, Tripura

Story ideas
a) Forms of benefits and changes caused by stand-alone and mini-grid plants, lack of motivation of end-users, market demands and weakness in policy and system.

b) Demand for off-grid power on the rise, may surpass MNRE target. Story will highlight present status of off-grid solar systems, total number of consumers, communities and establishments under SPV uses, end goal to assess market demand.

c) Highlight demands of the nation, proposed capacities to be built in future and status of Tripura in the context. Growth of local entrepreneurs to be studied.

Jury’s suggestions

The Jury approved the proposal as is and suggested that Mr. Das also try and publish in at least one another mainstream daily as well, along with AajKaal.

Fellowship Output:

Haroon Rashid Mirani
Kashmir Newz , Gulf News (Dubai) and Kashmir Life

Location: Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir

Story ideas
a) Trace the development of small Hydel projects in Jammu and Kashmir, the potential of water mills, the work done after the Indian state surveys and by Indian Army's program to install 1000 water mills, work done, future of the program and recommendations from the ground.

b) Examine limitations and the issues preventing the state from establishing a single wind power project despite having the best WPD and the presence of several wind corridors. Also explore the success of hybrid solar-wind projects at few hospitals which save lives.

Jury's recommendations
a) Ladakh now has the maximum funds in the country to develop renewable energy – is solar energy working in Ladakh? Can you record some successful case studies? What is the current potential? What is the current status of Ladakh Renewable Energy Development Agency (LREDA)? How successful has it been in its operations?

b) What is the status of small hydro power and wind power generation in the rest of Jammu and Kashmir?

c) What is the state’s off-grid policy? How is it benefiting the economy and the people?

Fellowship Output:

Hitendra Kumar Sharma
Senior Sub-editor and Senior Reporter
Dainik Bhaskar

Location: Jaipur, Rajasthan

Story ideas
a) 3000 solar sets were allotted to farmers in Rajasthan in financial year ending March 2013. Solar pumps and solar sprinklers are a sustainable irrigation tool and could be used to usher a Green Energy Revolution. The government offers 86% subsidy and the farmer has to pay 14%.

b) Off-grid is the most feasible option for rural electrification in Rajasthan. In 2013-14, rooftop solar power generation scheme was announced for Jodhpur allowing small entrepreneurs to sell electricity to local people. 50% subsidy will be given for such initiatives.

c) Solar energy expenses have decreased from Rs 17-18 per unit to Rs 7 per unit and it is expected to further go down. Also, it provides decentralized energy supply as per demand. Western Rajasthan has more than 320 solar days a year and maximum solar radiation per square metre.

d) Rajasthan has a few villages which distribute off-grid electricity at a nominal price.

Jury’s suggestions

The Jury suggested that besides the ideas that he had proposed, he should also focus on off-grid renewable energy success stories in Rajasthan – mainly in the field of solar.

Fellowship Output:

Kunnathully Nakulan Kishore
Central Chronicle

Location: Raipur, Chhattisgarh

Story ideas
a) Study overall picture of power generation through RE (solar) and other off-grid sources in Chhattisgarh; Reliability of RE sources.

b) Feedback of stakeholders where solar plants and panels are being used.

c) Status of biogas and other projects and bio-fuel programme.

d) New initiatives of government for students in tribal belt (solar lantern project) and use of solar energy in irrigation, schools and charging cell phones.

Jury's recommendations

a) Do stories on biomass-based renewable energy projects and cases, off-grid and rooftop solar energy projects in the state.

b) Do a district-wise review: status, distribution, economics, after sales issues and benefits.

c) Do stories on the success of mini grid in remote areas – are these playing a role in empowering tribals? Do some case studies.

Fellowship Output:
The Way for an Industry to Go Green
Central Chronicle (multiple editions), July 30, 2013

Tribal hamlets derive benefit of solar powered water supply.
Central Chronicle (multiple editions), August 12, 2013

Manipadma Jena
Thomson Reuters - Alertnet

Location: Bhubaneswar, Odisha

Story ideas
a) Analyse the functioning of RVEP by preparing a comprehensive report on the five tribal villages under the programme in Mayurbhanj district and five villages in Rayagada district.

b) Examine challenges being faced by implementing agencies and do an on-ground study and capture voices on aspects of pricing, subsidies and the quality of products available in the market.

b) Examine the status of the green residential complex in Kolkata and explore whether this model can be replicated in other urban centres. The story will pitch for a policy push for greener urban habitats.

Jury’s suggestions
The Jury approved her proposal as it was put. The jury members were keen that she cover the implementation of the RVEP, as well as some success stories in renewable energy in the state and perhaps focus on West Bengal.

Fellowship Output:

Rashpal Singh Bhardwaj
Special Correspondent
The Hindustan Times

Jaipur, Rajasthan

Story ideas
a) Jodhpur and Jaisalmer are becoming the sub of solar and wind energy in the state and energy generation from RE sources will be studied.

b) Examine status of on-going projects and the benefit (or lack) to local residents, especially in select villages in Jodhpur and Jaisalmer which are covered under RE plans.

c) Examine Rajasthan Renewable Energy Corporation (RREC) claims of covering 2000 villages under an electricification program by installing solar lights.

d) Study RE methods in government offices and forest areas.

Jury’s suggestions
The Jury approved the proposal as it was put. It also made some additional suggestions, as follows:

a) Examine the renewable energy projects in Bikaner and Jodhpur.

b) Their implementation status and benefits to locals.

c) Can Rajasthan afford solar energy? How do the costs and economics work out for the state government?

d) What are the land and water (especially solar thermal projects) issues for big projects in Rajasthan?

Fellowship Output:

Rashmi Prajapati
City Correspondent
NavDuniya, Bhopal

Location: Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh

Story ideas
a) Conditions in the villages at present (before electrification) and residents’ perceptions about the coming power service.

b) Power consumers in the villages have been categorised into BPL and above PL families. Why?

c) Power cost – have the villagers accepted it? Has consumption of fuelwood and kerosene gone down?

d) Can the mini-grid be used to run factories?

e) Economics of running a mini-grid and supplying power from it.

f) Policymakers to be apprised of the potential of mini-grids.

Jury's suggestions
The Jury approved her proposal as is. The members were keen that she cover the economics of renewable energy in the state in as much detail as possible.

Fellowship Output:

Ratheesh Kaliyadan

Media Analysis and Research Centre

Location: Kozhikode, Kerala

Story ideas
a) Critical analysis of the present status of off-grid renewable energy sources in Kerala.

b) Case study on off-grid renewable energy projects in Malabar region.

Jury’s suggestions
The Jury approved the proposal as it was put and suggested that he also try and publish in at least one mainstream daily as well, along with Eureka.

Fellowship Output:

Vivek Mishra
Freelance Journalist and Contributor, Prabhat Khabar.

Bahraich, Uttar Pradesh

Story ideas
a) RE – state policies, market potential and expectations: Patna solar market, government measures (such as powering street lights by solar or using solar in fisheries), Bihar Renewable Energy Development Agency(BREDA)and its work.

b) Entrepreneurs and RE: local stories of how small entrepreneurs are using RE, what problems they are facing, etc.

c) Madhepura: RE as an option in a politically sensitive, but power-less district.

Jury’s suggestions
The Jury has approved his proposal as it was put. It also made some additional suggestions, as follows:

a) Do stories on how biomass-based renewable energy projects are faring in Bihar.

b) Is the state government doing enough on renewable energy? What is the present state of affairs in the Bihar Renewable Energy Development Agency (BREDA)?

c) Bihar suffers from severe shortage of power – are people setting up own mini grids? Are there local initiatives because of the desperate need for energy?

d) There is a market for non- certified products in Bihar. Analyze it in a report.

e) Try and do the reportage from two-three districts, and not just one.

Fellowship Output: